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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - Then-Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola speaks at City Hall during a news conference in July 2018. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

The Little Rock Board of Directors plans to decide the parameters of outgoing Mayor Mark Stodola's retirement benefits by a vote before the end of the year.

The board voted 5-4 Tuesday against suspending the rules and placing on a second reading the proposed ordinance to set the amount Stodola is to be paid. The vote on the ordinance is now set next Tuesday.

The ordinance cites Arkansas Code Annotated 24-12-123, which states that any mayor who has served for at least 10 years and is over the age of 60, or any mayor who has served for at least 20 years regardless of age, shall receive half of the mayor's salary at the time of the mayor's retirement for the remainder of his life.

That means Stodola, who will have served 12 years next month and who receives a $160,000 salary, would receive $80,000 annually. Stodola is 69.

That yearly amount would come from a combination of contributions that Stodola made to his retirement plan and payments from the city.

Jody Carreiro, an actuary and the city's consultant on its employee retirement plans, said paying off that plan would cost the city $60,268 annually for 10 years. That money would come from the city's pension fund. City Manager Bruce Moore said the proposed $210.4 million budget for 2019, which is also set for a vote on Dec. 18, will be amended to take that payment into account.

The state law applies to "cities of the first class" -- cities with populations greater than 2,500, per statute.

The provisions of Tuesday's ordinance would apply to Stodola as well as all future Little Rock mayors, according to the document.

The ordinance puts the mayor's retirement plan in line with a defined benefits plan to which the city moved its other employees in 2014, City Attorney Tom Carpenter said, though Stodola's pension would be a higher percentage of his salary due to the state law.

Upon leaving employment, most employees other than the mayor and city manager annually receive 2 percent of their salary per year of service. For instance, if an employee retires after working for the city for four years, his annual payment is 8 percent of his salary at the time he leaves.

The 2-percent multiplier does not apply to years of service worked before 2014, when the defined benefits plan was adopted, unless employees themselves contribute money to "buy" those years of service, said Stacey Witherell, the city's human resources director.

The proposed ordinance also allows for certain cost-of-living increases and provides for spousal survivor benefits. For instance, Stodola's wife would be provided benefits if he predeceases her.

The mayor would be able to choose a spousal benefit plan from a list provided to other employees, Witherell said.

The spousal plan deals with splitting benefits should the former employee predecease his spouse, so it does not require the city to contribute additional money.

The board was split over whether to suspend the rules and move the ordinance to a second reading Tuesday. City directors Ken Richardson, Capi Peck, B.J. Wyrick, Joan Adcock and Kathy Webb voted no. Lance Hines, Doris Wright, Dean Kumpuris and Gene Fortson voted yes. Erma Hendrix was absent.

The ordinance does not deal with Stodola's accrual of unused vacation pay. Carpenter said the city board would have to address that issue separately. The board's last meeting before the end of the year is Dec. 18.

Stodola's salary and benefits in part parallel Moore's terms of employment.

In Little Rock, there is no modern-day precedent for what a mayor should receive when he leaves office.

The city strengthened the office of the mayor in 2007, after voters approved an ordinance giving additional powers to the position and making it a full-time role.

Taking office in 2007, Stodola is Little Rock's first full-time mayor since 1957. All mayors between now and then have been part-time.

The ordinance states the the mayor "shall be compensated with a salary and benefit package comparable to the highest-ranking municipal official."

In carrying out that ordinance, the city has used the city manager as the highest-paid municipal official. That excludes some employees of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field, the Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority and Central Arkansas Water, who have higher salaries than Moore.

Moore's salary is $189,240, according to the Democrat-Gazette online salary database. Stodola's salary is $160,000; the mayor was paid $36,000 annually when Stodola campaigned for the office.

Witherell said Moore's current employment contract sets his maximum carryover amount at 500 hours of unused paid time off.

However, she said the contract is unclear as to whether that means 500 hours is the maximum amount he is permitted to accrue at the end of each year, or whether that is the maximum amount he is allowed to carry over to the next year and continue accruing hours on top of.

She did not provide an estimate of how much money from unused days off Stodola might receive in addition to his pension.

Stodola has said that he uses minimal vacation days and works on city business around the clock.

Metro on 12/12/2018

Print Headline: Vote set on pay for outgoing Little Rock mayor Mark Stodola

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Comments

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  • drs01
    December 12, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    $80,000 a year for life after working just 12 years in a position that was considered more ceremonial than functional. I guess all that talk about the public section having lower salaries but great benefits is true, except that $160,000 a year in this city ain't bad pay if you can get it. Elected public service SHOULD NEVER HAVE BECOME A CAREER. I hope the city directors will do whatever they can legally to minimize this outrageous payout.

  • Foghorn
    December 12, 2018 at 11:24 a.m.

    Absolutely horrendous.

  • Murphy01
    December 12, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

    "The ordinance cites Arkansas Code Annotated 24-12-123, which states that any mayor who has served for at least 10 years and is over the age of 60, or any mayor who has served for at least 20 years regardless of age, shall receive half of the mayor's salary at the time of the mayor's retirement for the remainder of his life."
    if Frank Scott is serious about making changes he can start here.

  • NoUserName
    December 12, 2018 at 5:40 p.m.

    Well, this is a STATE LAW. So there isn't much LR or Scott can do about it. Worse than that is that if Stodola passes away, his wife will continue to draw that $80,000 salary. To Stodola's point about being out of compliance with city ordinance, unless Moore gets a similar benefits package, and he SHOULDN'T, I fail to see how THIS is a comparable benefits package. Which puts the city out of compliance with its own ordinace. Bottom line, though, is that if LR can afford a superfluous mayor AND a ridiculous benefits package, seems to me they aren't hurting for cash. Something I hope my fellow voters remember the next time LR comes crawling for more.

  • NoUserName
    December 12, 2018 at 6:02 p.m.

    Oh, I see. State law makes the 50% spousal support optional and to the discretion of the governing body. The city in this case. State law also allows for 3% annual increases if approved by the city. Seems to me we should never let a mayor serve 10 years.

  • Foghorn
    December 12, 2018 at 6:39 p.m.

    If this is not reason to have just a mayor OR a city manager but not both, I don’t know what it would take. $500K annually in salaries and benefits PLUS another $100K in benefits to those outgoing. We are all being FLEECED!

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